The anti-science evisceration of the EPA

     Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt smiles as his is introduced by former acting EPA Administrator Catherine McCabe, as Pruitt spoke to employees of the EPA in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt smiles as his is introduced by former acting EPA Administrator Catherine McCabe, as Pruitt spoke to employees of the EPA in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

    Steve Martin used to play a character called Theodoric of York, a medieval physician who insisted on trying to cure sick people by hanging them upside down, bleeding them out, and festooning their skin with leeches. And whenever he was tempted to shelve his superstitions and embrace the scientific method, he’d flash a merry grin and say, “Nah!”

    That was funny 40 years ago. But now we have a true-life medieval character running Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency.

    On a cable show yesterday, Scott Pruitt was confronted with the fact that carbon dioxide, the gas produced by the burning of fossil fuel, is a prime cause of global warming. Here’s how our Theodoric of York replied:

    “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don’t know that yet. We need to continue the review and the analysis.”

    What else can we expect from a well-documented toady of the fossil fuel industry? Yes, folks, here in Trumplandia, we even have alternative weather.

    Only in Trumplandia would we have an EPA chief who disses the scientific consensus on global warming. Only in Trumplandia would an EPA chief disbelieve (among others) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2000 international scientists), the National Climate Assessment (a report mandated by Congress, authored by 300 scientists), the Pentagon, the Center for Climate and Security (a nonpartisan group of senior military and national security experts), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — all of which cite carbon dioxide as a crucial cause of global warming.

    Speaking of NOAA, one of our top climate research agencies, the Trump regime is proposing to cut its annual budget by 17 percent. It’s also proposing to cut the EPA’s budget by 24 percent and reduce its staffing by 20 percent – which basically means that Pruitt has been tapped to preside over his own agency’s demise.

    I truly have to wonder whether the minority of voters who installed Trump really intended to foul their own environment — the air they breathe, the water they drink, the climate they inhabit. But that’s what they’re going to get.

    Pruitt’s remarks defied federal law (no surprise there; Trumplandia is all about sabotage). Eight years ago, citing the scientific consensus that links carbon dioxide to global warming, the EPA formally defined carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the terms of the Clean Air Act. And lest we forget, the Clean Air Act, which gave EPA the authority to curb pollutants, was enacted by Republicans and Democrats in a bipartisan Congress and signed into law by Republican Richard Nixon.

    Moreover, the federal courts have repeatedly upheld the EPA’s right to curb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel plants. No matter. Pruitt, by dint of his remarks yesterday, essentially signaled that the Trump regime intends to go back to the courts, seeking to erase the EPA’s authority. The timing of its  reactionary effort is most unfortunate – given the scientific fact that the earth’s ’16 temperatures were the warmest since modern recordkeeping began in 1880, and that ’16 was third straight year of record-setting global temperatures – but, hey, that’s important only if one believes in science.

    And there once was a time when Republicans believed in science. William Ruckelshaus, a Republican who ran the EPA for Nixon, and 10 years later for Ronald Reagan, said earlier this week that the agency “made enormous progress in bringing the country’s worst pollution problems under control despite resistance from polluting industries and their lobbyists…Our collective freedom and well-being depends on a set of restraints that govern society and how it operates.”

    Indeed, 47 years ago, when Congress passed the Clean Air Act (which authorized the EPA to “protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety”), not a single Republican senator voted no. At the signing ceremony, Nixon lauded the law as “a bipartisan effort…I think that 1970 will be known as the year of the beginning.”

    But today’s GOP is the Theodoric of York party, a dangerous outlier in the western world. Ruckelshouse predicts that it will ultimately pay a big price: “Voters may have supported Donald J. Trump believing his campaign rhetoric about the EPA. But they don’t want their kids choking on polluted air or drinking tainted water any more than Hillary Clinton voters, and as soon as the agency stops doing its job, they’re going to be up in arms.”

    Let’s hope he is right. Because otherwise, if 1970 was “the year of the beginning” for anti-pollution enforcement, 2017 may well signal the beginning of the end.

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    Speaking of Trump voters up in arms:

    Martha Brawley, a 55-year-old North Carolinian, had never voted before. She says that she ended her lifelong abstinence because she thought that Trump would improve on Obamacare. In her words, “I voted for Trump hoping that he would change the insurance” for the better.

    Under Obamacare, she reportedly gets $8,688 in annual subsidies that help her buy coverage. But under the long-awaited House Republican bill that Trump lauds as “wonderful,” she’d get annual tax credits totaling…$3,500.

    Brawley’s conclusion: “I might as well have not voted.”

    Too late, Trump chump.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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